The Healing Power of Animals – Pet Travel Tuesday

Animals, and dogs in particular, carry a heavy burden.

Those of us who love them, ascribe all kinds of virtues to them—understanding, compassion, and unconditional love. Maybe dogs have every wonderful trait we praise them for.

But I suspect dogs are too complex to be everything we need them to be. Sometimes they’re patient and loving. Other times they’re selfish little snots. Y’know, just like humans.

Doctor dog

Calling Doctor Dog.

And yet we hear stories of people who experience healing in the presence of animals.

One such story is that of The Horse Boy(affiliate link).

Today, for Pet Travel Tuesday at A Traveler’s Library, I reviewed The Horse Boy, a touching and beautiful film about a family desperate to find help for their autistic son. They seem to find it on horseback in Mongolia. (Please stop over to read my review and to see a trailer for this wonderful film.)

Their experience in Mongolia led Rupert Isaacson and Kristin Neff to start The Horse Boy Foundation, a camp where families with autistic children experience the healing that comes when spending time with horses.

So do these horses, or the dogs in our own lives, have healing powers?


Or maybe the gift animals bring is an example of true presence that opens us to healing no matter where it comes from.

Your Turn: It’s obvious that many people feel that time spent with animals heals them. Why do you think that is?
photo credit (doctor dog): urbanshoregirl via photopin cc. Click on image to see more about the photographer.

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  1. Callie, Shadow, and Ducky's Mom says:

    For me, at least, just being in the presence of a dog — whether my own, someone else’s, or a stray/shelter dog — makes me smile. And, if that dog is happy and playful so much the better! Nothing makes me laugh quite as much as a dog at play — and laughter is so good for the soul!

  2. Vlad & Barkly's Dee says:

    Why do we think that is? It is simply because pets relieve stress. It’s proven that stress worsens any illness–or is often so bad that it opens a body up to illness. Once stress is relieved, it opens the body up to so many more possibilities–like health and healing.

  3. I know for a fact, my horse saved my life when I was 12 years old. I was in a “point to point” horse race. As we turned the corner, there was a 5 foot jump. I knew my horse, Maui, would take it easily, which she did, but somehow, I didn’t and fell on the other side of the jump. When the other riders appeared, Maui was standing right next to me. Attempts to shoo her away wouldn’t work. Finally, one of the riders dismounted, climbed over the fence to lead Maui away, which she objected to, but walked away with him. The others riders saw Maui was riderless, another rider dismounted and found me on the other side of the fence. Had any other rider taken that jump, their horse would have landed right on top of me. Maui and I were insuperable. More often than not, we rode together with no tack. Didn’t need it. I often slept in her stall with her. She is missed, but always with me JM

  4. Well, Bunny and I just officially became hospice volunteers, and we’ve been visiting nursing homes together for quite a while. I would definitely say that animals have healing powers, if for no other reason than because our bodies react positively when we’re in the presence of animals. I’ve seen people smile or talk at the nursing home many times, only to be told by a nurse that it was the first time they’d seen that person seem happy. I don’t discount it at all, and actually, I think if our society became more inclusive of pets the way they are in Europe, we might be more relaxed all around.

  5. There have been many reports of children who can’t/won’t talk to adults being able to talk to pets. I think this is one of the most wonderful example of how animals can help by just ‘being’.

  6. Animals let us relax – we can be who we are, not who we are expected to be. Therapy horsemanship helps gently loosen ligaments and joints held tight by disease; therapy dogs give release to those who have lost so much control over their lives – but they remember their dogs…and love to share about them. Animals don’t tell us what to do, eat, when to bathe and turn in bed…they let us be us.


  1. […] Note: See Pam’s Companion article on the healing powers of animals at Something Wagging This Way […]